Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

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This compendium includes significant criminal cases by the U.S. Supreme Court & N.C. appellate courts, Nov. 2008 – Present. Selected 4th Circuit cases also are included.

Jessica Smith prepared case summaries Nov. 2008-June 4, 2019; later summaries are prepared by other School staff.

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E.g., 09/22/2021
E.g., 09/22/2021

The trial court did not abuse its discretion by sustaining the State’s objection to the introduction of an unauthenticated screenshot to impeach the victim’s credibility. Although it was permissible for counsel to ask the defendant questions about the screenshot, he could not impeach the victim’s credibility with extrinsic evidence to prove the contents of the screenshot where no foundation had been laid and the materiality of the post had not been demonstrated.

In this child sexual abuse case, the trial court did not impermissibly allow the State to use extrinsic evidence to impeach the defendant on a collateral matter. On cross-examination, the defendant denied that she had told anyone that the victim began masturbating at an early age, given the victim a vibrator, or taught the victim how to masturbate. In rebuttal, the State called a social worker to testify that the defendant told her that the victim started masturbating at age seven or eight and that she gave the victim a vibrator. The defendant’s prior statements were not used solely to impeach but as substantive evidence in the form of admissions.

The trial court did not err by admitting a witness’s out of court statements. When a State’s witness gave trial testimony inconsistent with his prior statements to the police, the State cross-examined him regarding his prior statements. After the witness denied making the statements, the trial court overruled a defense objection and admitted, for purposes of impeachment by the State, a transcript of the witness’s prior statements. The court rejected the argument that this constituted improper use of extrinsic evidence for impeachment. The rule against using extrinsic evidence to impeach a witness on collateral matters prohibits the introduction of the substance of a prior statement to impeach a witness’s denial that he or she made the prior statement because the truth or falsity of that denial was a collateral matter. However, when the witness not only denies making the prior statements but also testifies inconsistently with them, the rule does not prohibit impeaching a witness’s inconsistent testimony with the substance of the prior statements. Here, the substance of the witness’s prior statements properly was admitted to impeach his inconsistent testimony, not his denial.

Once a witness denies having made a prior inconsistent statement, a party may not introduce the prior statement in an attempt to discredit the witness because the prior statement concerns only a collateral matter, i.e., whether the statement was ever made. Here, the defendant cross-examined a witness named Morgan regarding statements Morgan supposedly made to a person named Daughtridge. Morgan admitted making some statements to Daughtridge but denied telling Daughtridge, among other things that the victim had a gun on the day of the shooting. The defendant argued that he should have been allowed to impeach Morgan by introducing a tape recording of a statement Daughtridge gave to the police in which she said that Morgan told her that the victim had a gun on the day of the shooting. Under Rule 608(b), the defendant was limited to Morgan’s answers on cross-examination.

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